George Wright (1849-1912)

A Notable Dartmouth Native

Dartmouth-born George Wright was the most notable Nova Scotian killed in the Titanic disaster. The creator of the revolutionary Wright’s World Business Directory, Wright had an immense impact on Halifax through his property developments and tireless philanthropy.

Born in Wright's Cove on October 25, 1849, George Henry Wright was the member of a successful farming family. Unsatisfied with a farming lifestyle, at age 17, Wright travelled to the United States and apprenticed as a printer. It was during this time that he attended the 1876 centennial exhibition in Philadelphia and was impressed by the many businesses represented there. This experience inspired Wright to create a comprehensive directory that would contain information on businesses across the globe. Through his research trips abroad and the numerous agents he employed across the globe, Wright composed an impressive 4,000-page directory, which was released in five revised editions between 1880 and 1899. Wright's World Business Directory was deemed by Halifax’s Morning Herald as “invaluable to merchants and manufacturers seeking to extend their trade.” It would prove immensely popular among the increasingly globalized business community of the late nineteenth century. Wright made a considerable fortune from the copyright and sales of his directory. 

While New York and London served as home bases during his travels, Wright returned to Halifax in 1896. With his immense wealth, he quickly made a name for himself as a philanthropist. Wright became a faithful financial supporter of the Halifax chapters of the YMCA and various temperance leagues. In addition to supporting local charities, Wright was a property developer who dedicated a great deal of time and finances to planning and constructing some of Nova Scotia’s first housing projects. He wanted to create better living conditions for the working class, and so in his revolutionary residential neighbourhoods, built modest homes and mansions next to one another. Wright Avenue in south-end Halifax was one such project and is named for him. Wright’s firm also erected two iconic commercial buildings on Barrington Street, both designed by James Charles Dumaresq: the Marble Wright building (now 1672 Barrington) and the St. Paul’s building (now 1684 Barrington). 

In addition to his tireless philanthropy, Wright was an avid sportsman with a special fondness for sailing. Shortly after his retirement, he became the four-time winner of the Plant-Oland Cup for sailing and was given permanent ownership of the cup after his fourth consecutive win. As well, Wright’s passion for sailing would eventually inspire him to establish another award, the Wright Cup, in 1898. 

Retiring from the world of business in around 1900, Wright spent the first decade of the twentieth century travelling and supporting various charitable causes. In the autumn of 1911, Wright sailed for Europe on the Empress of Ireland. While in Paris, he learned about the Titanic’s maiden voyage, and booked his return passage aboard the ill-fated liner. Given there is no record of Wright in the original ship’s passenger list, it is assumed that Wright booked his passage at the last minute, paying £26 for a First Class, single-berth cabin. Though Halifax newspapers claimed that Wright stood on the deck and watched as lifeboats were lowered into the sea, no survivors reported seeing Wright during the sinking in the wee hours of April 15, 1912. Instead, his friends testified that since he was an incredibly heavy sleeper, it was likely that he went to bed before the iceberg struck and then slept through the entire disaster. Among the more than 1,500 killed in the Titanic disaster, Wright’s body was never recovered. 

Before his sudden passing, George Wright composed a comprehensive will in which he left the bulk of his fortune to the many charities that he supported in life. He also left his stately home on Young Avenue to the Local Council of the Women to be used as their headquarters. Although his body was never found, Wright is commemorated by a grave marker in Dartmouth’s Christ Church Cemetery.



Wright's Cove, Nova Scotia